How Are Portable Generators Rated? A Handy Guide

Last Updated on March 21, 2023 by Manager Access

How Are Portable Generators Rated

A portable generator is an essential tool for anyone who wants to be prepared for power outages or who needs a reliable source of electricity when on the go. But with so many options available, how do you know which generator to choose? How do you find the only generator you need for your home? How are portable generators rated?

Portable generators are typically rated based on their power output, which is measured in either kilowatts (kW) or kilovolt-amperes (kVA). Other factors that may be used to rate generators include fuel efficiency, noise level, size and weight, and safety features.

Understanding how the ratings of portable generators vary is the key to making an informed decision. In this article, we’ll go over the important factors that go into rating portable generators, so you can choose the right one for your needs.

Reasons Why You Need To Know How Portable Generators Are Rated

Knowing how generators are rated is essential for several reasons.

Meets your power needs

By understanding the wattage requirements of your appliances and devices, you can choose a generator with the appropriate power output. You’ll be able to find a generator that can power everything you need it to, without being overloaded.

Take a look at the list below:

Appliance/Device Wattage (W)
Air Conditioner (8,000 BTU) 800-1,000 W
Blender 300-600 W
Clothes Dryer 1,800-5,000 W
Coffee Maker 600-1,200 W
Computer (Desktop) 100-500 W
Dishwasher 1,200-2,400 W
Electric Kettle 1,200-1,500 W

Saves Money

Understanding how generators are rated can help you save money in the long run. By choosing a fuel-efficient generator, you can reduce the amount of fuel you need to use. This can help you save money on fuel costs over time.

Additionally, by choosing a generator with the appropriate power output, you can avoid overloading the generator. And as a result, you’ll be able to prevent damage and save money on repairs.

inverter generators

Gas generators aren’t the only type of generator that can help you save in the long run. You see, inverter generators are also great.

They can save money in the long run due to their increased fuel efficiency compared to traditional generators.

Inverter generators use advanced electronics to regulate the engine speed, adjusting it to match the power demand. This translates to less fuel consumption and lower operating costs.

Additionally, a portable inverter generator is quieter. It can also produce cleaner power, which can also lead to cost savings.

This happens with reducing maintenance needs and extending the lifespan of electronics that are powered by the generator.



Knowing how portable generator models are rated can also help you ensure that your unit is safe to use. Generators can pose several safety risks, such as electrocution, carbon monoxide poisoning, and fire.

By choosing a generator with good safety features and understanding how to use it safely, you can reduce the risk of accidents and ensure the safety of yourself and those around you.

How Portable Generators Are Rated: The Factors

Understanding how portable generators are rated is essential for anyone who wants to choose the right generator for their needs.

By considering factors such as power output, fuel efficiency, noise level, size and weight, and safety features, you can make an informed decision and choose a generator that will meet your needs and provide emergency power backup when you need it most.

Below is an overview of each factor:

Power Output

When it comes to generators, power output is one of the most important factors to consider. The power output of a portable generator is measured in watts, and there are two types of wattage to consider: starting watts and running watts.

Starting watts refer to the amount of power a generator can produce when first turned on. Meanwhile, running watts refer to the amount of power it can produce continuously.

To determine the required wattage for your needs, you’ll need to consider the appliances or devices you plan to use during a power outage.

For example, a refrigerator might require 800 running watts, while a power tool might require 1,500 starting watts.

By adding up the wattage of all the devices you plan to power, you can determine the minimum wattage you need in a generator to provide power.

Now, is generator rating kW or kVA?

Most generators can be rated in kW (kilowatts) or kVA (kilovolt-amperes). kW is a unit of real power, while kVA is a unit of apparent power.

Think of it this way:

kW represents the actual power that can be used by devices, while kVA represents the total power that is available from the generator, including reactive power that is not available for use by devices.

In general, when choosing the best portable generator, it’s important to pay attention to both the kW and kVA ratings.

The kW rating will give you an idea of the actual power output of the generator, while the kVA rating will tell you the maximum load that the generator can handle without becoming overloaded.

It’s important to choose a generator with a kW rating that meets your power needs, while also ensuring that the kVA rating is sufficient to handle any surge loads that may occur while powering appliances.

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency is measured in terms of run time per gallon. It’s an important consideration for anyone who plans to use their generator for an extended period of time. You wouldn’t want to be caught with not enough fuel during a power outage.

Several factors can affect fuel efficiency, including the size of the generator, the load it’s carrying, the size of its fuel tank, the fuel system, and the type of fuel it uses.


Gas generators are the most common, but propane and diesel options are also available. There are also dual fuel generators being sold with great features these days.

By calculating your fuel needs and choosing the best portable generator with good fuel efficiency, you can save money and reduce the number of trips you need to make to the gas station.

Noise Level

No one wants to deal with a noisy generator during power outages, so the noise level is another important factor to consider. Noise level is measured in decibels (dB), and a lower dB rating means a quieter generator.

Typical noise levels for most portable generator models range from around 50 dB to 90 dB, with the quietest models being in the 50-60 dB range. Keep in mind that the noise level of a generator can also vary depending on the load it’s carrying.

Choosing a generator with a low noise level is especially important if you plan to use it in a residential area or in close proximity to other people.

It’s also something you have to consider if you’re looking for ways to increase the value of your property. Getting the loudest generator can put a dent in your asking price if you’re planning on selling your house.

Size and Weight

The size and weight of a generator can affect its portability, which is an important consideration for anyone who plans to use it on the go.

Portable generators come in a range of sizes and weights, from small and lightweight models that can be carried by hand to larger models that require wheels for transportation.

To determine the appropriate size and weight for your needs, you’ll need to consider how you plan to use your generator.

Generator Size and Weight

If you plan to use it for camping or other outdoor activities, a smaller and more lightweight model might be best.

On the other hand, if you need the best portable generator for powering your home during a power outage, a compact portable generator might not be enough. You’ll need a larger and more powerful generator.

Safety Features

Safety features are an important consideration when rating portable generators. Generators can pose several safety risks, including electrocution, carbon monoxide poisoning, and fire. They may even ruin sensitive electronics if not properly picked.

So, when choosing the best portable generators, it’s a good idea to pick one with good safety features to help reduce these risks.

Common safety features to look for include ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), which can prevent electrocution. A low-fuel shutoff feature is also nice to have since it can prevent damage to the generator’s engine.

Always follow proper safety procedures when using standby generators. Make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Whether you own a Durostar portable generator or a couple of Honda generators, you should have no problems finding that information in the manual.

If possible, you should also try to invest in a good alarm with carbon monoxide detection.

How Do I Know My Generator Rating?

To find out your generator’s rating, you can check the owner’s manual or the generator’s label. The label or manual should include information about the generator’s power output, fuel consumption, noise level, size and weight, and safety features.


The power output of most portable generators will typically be listed in either kW or kVA, along with the maximum load that the generator can handle.

You can use this information to determine whether the generator is powerful enough to meet your needs.

For example, if you need to run power tools or an electric water heater most of the time, you’ll need a more powerful generator.

If you simply need an emergency power source for minor appliances, a couple of electrical devices, or to power lights at home, you can use smaller units.

It’s important to note that the power output of the generator can vary depending on the type of load that it is powering. For example, some devices may require more power to start up than to run continuously.

It’s important to consider the starting power requirements of all devices that you plan to power with the generator, to ensure that the generator can handle the initial surge of power that may be required.

If you’re still unsure about your generator’s rating, you can consult with a qualified electrician or generator technician.

They can help you determine the generator’s power output and other specifications, such as its voltage regulator, fuel stabilizer, fuel gauge, engine oil, and more.

In Conclusion

Whether you’re using a portable solar generator or inverter generator for emergencies, outdoor events, construction sites, or remote work, understanding its ratings is an important step in ensuring that it meets your needs and provides safe, reliable power.

So, take the time to do your research before you go on that camping trip you’ve been planning with your friends. Whether you’re after inverter generators or gas generators, it’s important to choose one that will provide the power you need, when you need it. is an independent review business. I am not affiliated with any manufacturers and do not accept paid reviews. When you buy through my links, I may earn a commission which helps me purchase more generators for testing. - Scott Krager

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